March 23, 2012

Ashford & Simpson: The WB Years 12" Collection

In 2008 Warner Bros/Rhino released the Ashford & Simpson double CD collection Hits, Remixes & Rarities: The WB Years. The set compiles 8 70's promo-only 12" disco mixes- originally mixed by Valerie's brother Jimmy Simpson, paired with 6 other hits on the first disc. The second disc contains 9 newly remixed versions by veteran masters like Tom Moulton, & Tommy Musto, as well as contemporaries like Dimitri From Paris and Joey Negro- all of which bring stunning new life to the arrangements while retaining the original style and sound.

For the 5-disc vinyl release, there are 6 of the 8 original disco mixes, and 2 of the other 4 cuts on the first 4 discs- one song per side, cut at 45 RPM.  The 5th disc is cut at 33.3 RPM and contains only 4 of the 9 new versions. All 5 discs are in WB 12" die-cut jackets with paper inner sleeves, all are 180 grams featuring the 70's WB label. All 5 12" jackets fit into a very thin, cheaply made picture slip-case.

Limited to 3000 copies, the set retails for about $30 (currently on sale at SoundStageDirect for $13!!), for 12 songs.

Though the vinyl is great, the full 23 track set is a must for disco / 70's R&B / Ashford & Simpson fans.  I downloaded it once I saw and sampled what was missing: Nobody Knows (Disco Mix 6:37), Love Don't Make It Right (Disco Mix 4:23), and the new mixes missing: One More Try (Dimitri Re-Edit 7:59), Bourgie Bourgie (Joe Claussell's Classic Remix 11:20), Over And Over (Simphouse/M&M Mix 9:00), Stay Free (Dim's The Missing Mix 7:50), Love Don't Make It Right (Joey Negro Mix 6:32). All of these are essential, and only available on the full release. Surely they all could have fit on 5 discs?

As with any collection, deciding which songs to include must have been tough for producer Johnny "D" DeMairo- there were other singles that charted higher in the 70's than some included here, but this was a labor of love and the man knows his A&S.  I read that Bourgie Bourgie, an instrumental from the album Send It (1977), and later completed with lyrics and guide vocals for release by Gladys Knight And The Pips (1980), and DeMairo planned it to be remixed with Valerie's guide vocals for this release, but sadly the original tapes could not be found. I've also read that Jimmy Simpson was a pioneer of extending intros, choruses, and breakdowns of singles specifically for playing at dance clubs. So while the vinyl is a steal at the sale price, the CD/download, with all of Jimmy Simpson's originals as well as all the new mixes, is a must!

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